Gerald Almy: Night fishing for bass great sport

Gerald Almy

We had been fishing for just over an hour since the sun disappeared as a vivid orange ball in the West. Amazingly, as I counted in my head the number of fish two of us had caught and released, I realized it was well over a dozen.

On many daytime trips I have put in long eight- to 10-hour sessions under a broiling hot sun to catch that many bass.

Suddenly a loud strike on the topwater plug I was casting distracted me from my reverie. I quickly worked the feisty fish in, twisted the hooks free and released the plump 4-pounder. My partner soon topped that fish, though, with a bass one pound heavier.

That outing was one of the most action-packed bass fishing expeditions I’d ever enjoyed. It was also my first night bass fishing experience.

It’s easy to see why fishing after dark holds so much promise. Especially during warm spring and summer months, bass simply bite better after the sun goes down.

On top of that, some of the biggest fish residing in lakes and ponds become more aggressive in the dark. There’s no need to worry about pleasure boaters disturbing your favorite spot at night or competition from fellow anglers for prime spots.

Other positives include the fact that you don’t have to worry about getting sunburned, UV damage or cataracts from the outing. It’s also peaceful and quiet at night and cooler without a harsh summer sun bearing down. Winds are often less troublesome for boat handling as well.

The main reason to night fish for Virginia’s bass, though, is simply the uniqueness of the experience. There’s nothing quite like it. Vision recedes as your predominant sense, while sound and touch come to the forefront.

You’ll feel your plastic worm or grub crawling over each rock or brush pile like never before when you fish at night. Vibrations from a wobbling spoon or shimmying crankbait seem to pulse right through your hands into your body. The tap-tap of a striking bass grabbing a worm seems more intense than it ever does under a bright midday sun.

Fishing at night is also an auditory delight. You might hear the sweet song of a whippoorwill, a hooting owl, crickets chirping or frogs bellowing. The rhythmic gurgling of a wobbling Jitterbug is a song in itself, interrupted with another sweet sound when an outsized bass grabs the gurgling surface plug with a whoosh.

To get the most out of night bass fishing, though, special preparations are required. You need to pick the right bodies of water, most effective lures, proper tackle and best retrieves.

Safety also needs special attention. Move carefully and use a flashlight when shore fishing to avoid objects that could trip or injure you. And watch out for snakes!

Always wear a personal floatation device when fishing from a boat. Go slowly when motoring between spots and keep running lights on.

Pick waters with few obstructions such as timber or floating debris. Use a spotlight to check ahead for dangers as you navigate.

The best idea is to launch close to the area you plan to fish so you won’t have to do much high speed traveling. Also select waters you’re familiar with when planning a night trip.

You need to know where basic structures are such as points, humps, islands, river channels and bridges. Certainly you’ll want a topographic map and sonar on larger lakes, but past daytime experience about the area is also vital.

Almost all Virginia lakes and slow-moving rivers offer good night fishing prospects. Smaller reservoirs and ponds that you can fish from shore are also a good bet, especially if the shoreline is fairly clear of stumps and trees you could trip over.

When fishing from a boat, keep excess gear back in the truck or stowed away off the floor. It’s easy to trip in the dark – and dangerous. Rig up two or three outfits that you’re familiar with and store all but one of them out of the way.

Special lights are available for night fishing that give off a soft glow unlikely to spook bass. I also wear a small clip-on flashlight or headlamp for tying on lures. Glowing bobbers are even available if you want to fish with live minnows.

Next Week: the moon’s influence and special tactics for nighttime bass.

Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.